Garth’s Auctions will move into a new permanent home, the historic Municipal Light Plant, near the heart of Columbus, Ohio, in January. The company’s last sale in The Barn at Stratford was September 14 and 15, when a selection of country Americana served as a fitting good-bye. The auction house had used the barn since Garth’s opened in 1954.
In the interim, Garth’s is doing business at 1450 Dublin Road in Columbus.
The Municipal Light Plant will give Garth’s an updated facility close to the pulse of the Ohio capital. “It’s just a marvelous, marvelous building,” said Jeff Jeffers, Garth’s CEO and principal auctioneer. “Like the barn, you feel like you’re stepping into another era.”
The search for a replacement facility became a necessity not long after Jeff and Amelia Jeffers acquired the auction company from Tom and Carolyn Porter in 2006. The purchase agreement did not include the property, which consisted of ten acres, the 19th-century barn used for Garth’s catalog auctions, a Federal house that served as the company’s office, and an 8500-square-foot pole building where Garth’s held its “Eclectic” auctions.
This artist’s rendition depicts the Municipal Light Plant after completion, complete with Garth’s name on the smokestack.
At first the grounds and buildings were leased by the Jefferses. The Porters eventually decided to develop a corner of the property for a gas station. The remaining land, complete with the barn and house, was donated to the Delaware County Historical Society. That organization continued to lease the property to the Jefferses as they looked for a new location.
What they found, just as it was being considered for possible development, was the Municipal Light Plant, located at 589 W. Nationwide Boulevard, near the Scioto and Olentangy rivers. Built around the turn of the 20th century, the plant provided electricity for the city from 1903 until 1977, when the operation was shut down. For the next 40 years, the brick building sat empty.
When the city decided to breathe life back into the Municipal Light Plant, Garth’s was selected from 14 applicants as the anchor tenant for the building. The process took a while, as has the building’s rehabilitation. The coal-burning power plant contained a massive boiler, turbines, pipes, machinery, and other equipment, most of which was removed over several years.
The auction house will occupy about 20,000 square feet of the facility. Jeffers said the Municipal Light Plant is in a prime location in the Arena District of Columbus. The immediate area includes two professional sports venues: Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League, and Huntington Park, the ball field used by the Columbus Clippers, the AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Also nearby are several other renovated historic buildings. Within walking distance is North Market, which since 1876 has housed farmers’ markets, restaurants, and other small businesses.
“One of the draws for us was that many of the structures in the neighborhood are historic and have some age. And, it’s right on the river. For the city of Columbus, what they’ve done with the riverfront is absolutely amazing,” said Jeffers.
Auction-goers will have plenty of reasons to spend extra time in Columbus. “It provides the opportunity to come into town for the night or for the weekend, attend an auction, and stay for a bit if you so choose,” Jeffers said. He added that the site is easily accessible and visible from three main thoroughfares.
From the first time he walked into the then-vacant facility, Jeffers knew the Municipal Light Plant was a good fit for Garth’s. “Having operated from a historically interesting if not significant venue, we had a responsibility to make an effort to find the same moving forward,” he said.
Garth’s has entered a long-term lease on space in the building. The refurbished property will allow for a state-of-the-art auction gallery and offices. “The barn was a little limited,” Jeffers said.
For more information, phone Garth’s at (740) 362-4771 or visit the website (www.garths.com).
Originally published in the October 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest